2.2 State of the art

In the field of vision and imagination, we distinguish roughly three clusters of methods: foresight & imagination, shared vision development and pathways.

Foresight & imagination By foresight, we mean the methods that aim to map, analyse and understand the autonomously developing future and environment. There are different forms of exploration.

Explorations of the future, also called futures studies or futurology, are those studies that seek to understand ‘what is likely to continue and what is likely to change." Part of this discipline strives for a systematic and pattern-based understanding of past and present and toward determining the likelihood of future events and trends. For example, one of the early thinkers was H.G. Wells (1901), who predicted the atomic bomb at the beginning of the 20th century. Or Rachel Carson who started the environmental movement with The Silent Spring (1962). Scenario analysis (e.g. Kahn, 1965; Wack, 1985), trend analysis and delphi can also be included in this group. In addition, explorations can focus on all possible more specific areas, such as technology explorations (Jansen, 1994) and learning curves, market or economic explorations, or environmental or landscape explorations. Although explorations are becoming richer and more exhaustive due to the greater availability of data, the key challenge remains how to deal with uncertainties that the future by definition holds.

Imagination, or imaginative power, is the ability to evoke mental images, ideas and / or feelings, without being perceived by the senses (Szczelkun, 2018). Imagination creates space to interpret reality and to look for new forms of looking and thinking. The imagination is the basis for inspiration and new ideas and plays an important role in the learning capacity of people (Hajer, 2017).

Imagination can thus be seen as an important basis for innovation and development.

Well-known methods of mobilising the imagination are scenario thinking, visualisations and storytelling, but films (science fiction) and the arts in a broad sense also give shape and content to imagination.

Shared vision development These are methods that aim to develop a perspective of a desirable future and thereby arrive at visions that are supported by actors. These are desirable visions on, for example, new products and services, technology or specific societal challenges. Developing desirable visions implies that subjective, moral and also politically charged aspects are at stake. Resistance to a particular innovation strategy or the degree of politicisation is often also related to the fact that innovations are in various cases also political interventions that will influence people's living environments. A good example of this is the Mission and Man on the Moon thinking, put on the agenda by Marianne Mazzucato (2013), among others.

On the one hand, the methods in this category help to give meaning to the desired visions in effective ways. In the (product) design field, these are Design Fiction (speculative design), Technology Pyramid, Visual Thinking, Frame Innovation (Dorst, 2015) and Vision in Design (Hekkert & van Dijk, 2011). On the other hand, these approaches also support the development of support for visions, for example for Co-design, Design for Debate, Critical Design, Future Labs / Experience Labs and World Student Challenges. The Hyperloop is a good example of the latter.

Pathways (Ex ante) Impact pathways map out how and through which mechanisms and actors impact is achieved. In other words, they do not so much support the determination of the mission / vision, but the mapping of the way to it. The concept of theory of change plays an important role in the ex ante way of mapping impact. KNAW (2018) describes theory of change as: “... a causal framework that provides insight into how and why a change process will take place and how the steps are related in a specific context. The starting point of the theory of change is not the output of a research project, but the intended social impact or possibly the outcome. To this end, concrete goals are formulated and the assumptions underpinning them made explicit.

Subsequently, it is analysed which activities are necessary to achieve this impact and which conditions must be met at a particular moment. Based on this, it can also be determined which stakeholders should be involved - an approach that is further elaborated in the Participatory Impact Pathway Analysis (Blokdyk, 2019).

Well-known methods for developing pathways are Backcasting (Robinson, 1982), forecasting, roadmapping and, more specifically, Technology roadmapping (Hasberg et al., 2012). Characteristic elements of the approach of Mission-Driven Innovation Policy (Goetheer et al., 2018) and Transition Management (Loorbach, 2007) can also be counted as part of the pathway group.

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